Dawn Robinson said she continues to carry painful memories with her, from the time when she found herself in the midst of one of the darkest chapters in U.S. history.
Robinson is a former vice president of the training department for financial advisors at the Morgan Stanley firm. She was on the 61st floor in the South Tower of the World Trade Center, when a passenger plane was crashed into the New York City skyscraper on Sept. 11, 2001.
"It changed every aspect of my life," said Robinson. "When you go from being the vice president of the largest [financial services] firm in the country, to disability, it changes your life.
"The emotional part that I go through every day is much bigger than the physical struggles that I deal with," she said, in an preview interview of the message she plans to deliver Sunday, July 3, at the Open Bridge Church, in McDonough. Robinson, of Phoenix, Ariz., is scheduled to tell her story at 7 p.m. The church is located at 136 Hood St.
Robinson said that, on the morning of the terrorist attack, which would eventually claim nearly 3,000 lives, the beautiful, blue sky gave no clues as to what was ahead. Many of her fellow employees had not arrived to work, yet, she recalled.
"Most people don't realize, had the planes hit after 9 a.m., we probably would have lost thousands more lives," said the Atlanta-born Robinson, in a raspy voice –– a result of injuries she suffered during the attack. She has a partial loss of vision, frequent flashbacks and panic attacks, and is constantly accompanied a therapy dog, a 9-year-old poodle, named Uschi.
Today, Robinson visits schools, churches and businesses across the country, to tell people about the attacks as she experienced them. "Things like that make it worthwhile," she said. "It's worth the pain of reliving the story. I believe my story is for every age. It's not specific to one group."
One of the main points Robinson plans to emphasize for those in attendance at the church, is the difference between what people think they know about the attacks, and what really happened.
"When the first plane hit, I saw huge chunks of debris falling outside my window," Robinson said. "People like to tell me what they would do in my situation, but you have to remember, this had never happened before. I had no idea that planes had hit the building. We thought there were bombs, and once we got on the ground, I thought [authorities] were chasing us on the ground with guns. So, my perspective is completely different from what you saw on television."
When I did get to the bottom, and I was trying to get out of the building, smoke had already filled the building and it was on fire," she continued. "Water was coming into the building, and all the electricity was out."
Mike Menser, pastor of Open Bridge Community Church, said he is looking forward to sharing Robinson's unique perspective with his congregation.
"She actually saw the real deal, and what really took place. She tells a very riveting story," said Menser.
The pastor, a nine-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, also served in the first Gulf War. He said Robinson's appearance will give the audience an opportunity to take pride in their country, and in the military's response to the terrorist attacks. He said Robinson's story is one of perseverance, and one which many people in today's world need to hear.
"They can make it through anything, no matter what the situation," she said. "I think that's especially pertinent right now, because of the economy and the hopelessness that people feel. I hope that people know it's not just about material things.
"When you go through tragedy, it brings out the core of who you are."
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